This piece originally appeared on the ACFW blog on June 22, 2017.
I’ve been thinking a lot about hope lately in relation to writing, and how we can forget to cultivate hope in our quest for publication, sales, and reaching readers. When our hope buckets are empty or nearly so, we find ourselves fighting discouragement, resentment, envy, and jealousy. We lose our contentment where God has us and wallow in self-pity and despair.
Hope is the antidote to those ugly emotions that sap us of our creativity and our joy in writing. But hope can be tough to hold onto in the midst of lackluster sales, no contracts or awards, and low readership. Hope is easy when the accolades and contracts and publications mount up, isn’t it? It’s a breeze to feel hopeful when your agent calls to tell you about a new book contract, but it’s harder when publishers don’t respond to your proposals or your work is languishing in no-man’s land of an agent’s manuscript pile.
Without hope that someone will read our books, we wouldn’t write a single word. It’s hope that spurs us to put our thoughts onto a page and turn that page into a novel. It’s also hope that separates the would-be writers from the real writers because real writers press on even when hope seems like a tiny flame instead of a roaring bonfire.
Real writers see hope in the little things: a great descriptive line, the plot that came together, the story that made you cry as you wrote it, and the love between a man and woman. Real writers feel hope as their stories take shape, knowing that the One for whom they write is pleased with their efforts…even if those efforts don’t see the light of day. Real writers feed that hope by honing their skills, encouraging other writers, and becoming better writers.
How do you keep hold of hope when your circumstances seem to dictate otherwise? Here are a few suggestions.
Mentor a new writer. I’ve found my own hope renewed by talking about writing with my two young teens and a few of their teenage friends. They’ve asked me to run a writing club again this summer, where we meet a few times to talk about writing and they work on stories together. Seeing their enthusiasm and teaching them a bit about how to write fiction can be so encouraging.
Attend a writer’s group or conference. Learning about your craft and meeting fellow writers can be wonderfully restorative to one’s own hope. Hearing about someone’s success can make you believe that your own success will come in God’s perfect time.
Write. Keep writing, keep striving, keep using your gift to put words on paper. Being able to weave stories is a gift, so don’t hide it under a bushel—let it shine on the page.
We all feel discouraged at times no matter where we are in our writing careers, but remember to keep hold of your hope even in the midst of disheartening situations or a downturn in your writing. Hope not in vain, but in the knowledge that somehow, through your writing, God will be glorified.